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QRD #42 - Guitarist Series
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews with:
Ashkelon Sain
Zac Keiller
Eric Muhs
Patrick Vega
Russ Stedman
Bret Hart
Rick Ray
John William Gordon
Evan Peta
Evgeny Zheyda
Dave Halverson
Charles Rice Goff III
Calvin Johnson
Kim Chee
John G Sosnowski
Michael Walton
Annelies Monseré
Eric Quach
Robert Poss
Sarah June
Ted Johnson
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Guitarist Interview with Michael Walton 
July 2010
photo by James Grey
Michael Walton
Bands: mwvm
Websites: mwvm.co.uk - silbermedia.com/mwvm - myspace.com/mwvm
Listen to "mind the gap"

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Michael – A Fender Squire Strat. Black, white pickguard, with a rosewood neck. I wanted the guitar David Gilmour used in Live at Pompeii. I eventually sold it for £20 or something ridiculous like that.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Michael – At the moment I’ve cut my FXs right down. Fender Telecaster>Marshall Shredmaster>Line 6 M9>Frostwave Resonator>EHX Memory Man>Fender Vibrochamp XD & a Peavey Classic 30. I’m considering selling my Resonator, they go for crazy money at the minute.

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?

Michael – I’ve owned loads of different guitars, I bought a USA Telecaster in 1997 & it’s been my main guitar ever since. The Vibrochamp is superb for slide & clean tones, the Peavey Classic 30 gives me more umph with regards to guitar “pad” fade-ins. FX? I’d say the Shred Master - quite a vocal guitar FX. I’ve used it on every track I’ve recorded, especially the glissando slide. I couldn’t replace it, really. It’s the only pedal that has survived since about 2000. I recently got rid of my beloved Line 6 DL4, mainly because the Line 6 M9 does the same job plus much, much more. I used to ridicule multi-FX units, I owned a few over the years & they’ve all sounded rubbish. The Line 6 M9 has put to bed my hate of multi-FX, brilliant pedal.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Michael – Hmmm...difficult one. Since I recorded the last album I’ve had 5 or 6 different amps, my fav was a Mesa Boogie 5:50 Express – fantastic shimmering cleans, but with regular guitar playing it sounded a bit metal, like it needed to be shredded - no thanks. The Peavey Classic 30 is quite noisy, probably needs some caps replacing or something, saying that I’ve used it quite a lot on new recordings.

QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?

Michael – My standard Tele. Glissando slide doesn’t sound the same on any other guitar. I prefer single coil guitars, they are more appealing to my ears. Glissando guitar on humbuckers is no good, you pick up more noisy/scratchy sounds of the tonebar against the string. No idea why, must be something to do with the extra gain.

QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would  some of its features be?

Michael – It would do what those new Moog guitars do but look like a Blonde White Telecaster, black pickguard with a Maple neck & those old oval tuners.

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?

Michael – I’d like a Binson Echorec type pedal with modern digital controls & a looper.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Michael – Three. A 1997 Standard USA Telecaster, a 2010 Thinline Deluxe Telecaster & a shitty acoustic at the moment.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Michael – In my dining room (where all my equipment is kept).

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?

Michael – A bit more FX pedal storage.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?

Michael – The way it looks, always. I’ve owned six Telecasters over the years, all different set-ups, components, & colours. I just like how they look. It seems silly to go for looks first, but truth be told, all my favourite guitarists played Telecasters - so I know what to expect with regards to tones.

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?

Michael – The most I’ve paid for a guitar is £800ish. A 2009 Standard Stratocaster (that I have since sold). You pay for what you get, simple as. The 2009 Strat was lovely to play, & had the best vibrato/tremolo system I’d played. It pissed on cheaper Mexican guitars. The finish was nice too. Cheaper guitars go out of tune & that sort of thing.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?

Michael – Yeah, I’ve done all kinds of mods. 4-way/out of phase/series/parallel switching Telecasters, bleed caps. 7-way switching Strats. I once installed a sustainiac pickup in a Epiphone LP (I hated the tone of that guitar). I’ve also dabbled with various vintage pickups in Strats. It was a big regret to sell on the Sustainiac pickup though.

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?

Michael – I usually check out YouTube & review sites first. Then if a local store has whatever I want in stock I’ll spend a few minutes trying it out. If it excites you, then you know you’re on to a winner. Got to admit though, the honeymoon period doesn’t last long with most new bits of kit.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Michael – Ha. I’ve had loads of different set-ups since Rotations. Different guitars, amps, FX. If I listed them all it would get embarrassing - seriously. I’ve settled with my current set-up now for about 4-5 month, that’s a good sign.

QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?

Michael – Only the one, really. When I had a ‘69 Tele with 4-way & out of phase switching, I could get loads of different tones. I used that on some recordings, but in general the out of phase tone is generally unusable, thin & not pleasant on the old ears.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Michael – One of those Moog E-1 guitars. They are every dronester’s dream I think. Way out of my league. I always wanted an Eventide pedal, then I bought one - a Pitch Factor. Expensive, but a quality pedal. I only sold it on as I needed the cash. You could play “slide chords” up to 4 note with a single string, using an expression pedal would change it to major/minor or whatever. I’d say a real tape delay, that’s what I’d really like. Amps? I’ve played on some beauts, again they cost too much money but I’d really like a Bogner Duende - that sounded beautiful.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?

Michael – Nothing.

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?

Michael – When we had our daughter, I wanted to down size, so I bought a Boss GT8.  It sounded dog shit, so do Line 6 Pods, awful. I also bought a Epiphone Les Paul studio I modded. What a dull lifeless guitar, even acoustically, it sounded dull. Terrible guitar.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?

Michael – Some, not all of the Line 6 range is quite appealing & forward thinking. Fender guitars & amps.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?

Michael – Blues. I always play blues, David Gilmour stuff. However, my favourite song I like to play is “Love Spreads” by the The Stone Roses.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Michael – 15 or something.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?

Michael – I still haven’t got to a level that I’m comfortable or confident with. I improve every time I learn or try new stuff.

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?

Michael – I still think a faded in “pad” guitar>delay>reverb>amp sound is better than anything a synth can deliver. I’ve sampled the full range of a faded in “pad” & glissando notes on a guitar. So I can play the sounds I like with a keyboard.

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?

Michael – Whatever instrument influences you to start playing music in the first place should be your first choice. Within reason.

QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?

Michael – It’s the first port of call, if that’s what you mean.

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Michael – Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, a little Daevid Allen, Jonny Greenwood.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?

Michael – Silly.

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?

Michael – I walked in to a door handle with my Tele. It’s chipped away the paint right to the wood.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing your songs?

Michael – Radiohead, Pink Floyd songs. Loads of stuff. Even The Rolling Stones. It has no relevance on what I record.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?

Michael – I work away from home during the week. Sometimes I’ll take away the guitar, sometimes I wont, same with my laptop. Weekends are sports/family orientated, but I manage to fit in some playing here & there. A good week, I’ll play about 8-10 hours. A bad week, no guitar at all.

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?

Michael – Those yellow/orange Dunlop ones.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Michael – 10s. They are more comfortable to play.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Michael – Every 4-5 months.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Michael – Very rare, I’m no shredder.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?

Michael – The co-ordination of both doing what you intend them to do. I don’t think about styles too much.

QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?

Michael – I set everything up myself. It’s a high action for slide. The only thing I send my guitars out for is a fret dress. Which my wife’s work colleague does.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Michael – Standard. For slide I tune it to fit what track I’m recording, usually Open G.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Michael – I don’t write anything down. If I come across something I like, I record it.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?

Michael – I sit down.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Michael – Those same runs your fingers automatically do when you pick up a guitar.  However, this doesn’t effect what I record.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?

Michael – The bass I suppose. Maybe some keyboards. I mean, I still see fret positions, not notes when I play the guitar.

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing do you wish you could do that you can’t?

Michael – Delta Slide that sounds good rather then shabby.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?

Michael – Play a full song without making a mistake.

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?

Michael – No idea.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?

Michael – Slide. I can safely say the Ebow does not feature on any new recordings.  It’s over used in the genre.

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?

Michael – I’ve always impressed by flamenco guitar playing. The timing, usually. I have no intention of learning this style.

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Michael – I went to one or two. The last time I went, this guy (who was a shredder) told me he was gonna make the Terminator movie with self made props & a camcorder. Bit of a weird cunt. I didn’t go back.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?

Michael – Nothing.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Michael – Play very simple glissando guitar parts.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Michael – They work. Folks like Jeff Beck make the guitar sound so unique using a tremolo.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Michael – I always roll it off to about 8. Then if I need more presence for lead part turn it to 10.

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?

Michael – These are getting silly now. It’s a bit like saying, what’s the difference between a lead singer & backing singer?

QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?

Michael – No, band first as a whole. I mean, I’ll always admire someone who plays their instrument well, but the overall output & how it makes me feel is the important bit.

QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?

Michael – I’m not really that type of person.

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?

Michael – Jonny Greenwood. Constantly impressive to hear. Looks like a dick when he plays though.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Michael – The MP3 attached to this interview.

Other QRD interviews with Michael Walton:
mwvm interview (January 2008)